“Desist, and learn that I am God, supreme over the nations, supreme over the earth.” (Psalm 46:10)
Growing up, I enjoyed a particular song by the Christian music artist Randy Stonehill. The name of the song was “Awfully Loud World” and it was a humorous yet frank perspective on all the noise and commotion we encounter every day. We are surrounded by all manner of electronic devices that clamor for our attention. Families seem to always be on the go to the next sports practice for their children, picking up groceries, seeing a movie, or any number of activities. Let’s face it. We are a society that likes to be going, going, going.
This is not all bad as being active sure beats the opposite end of the spectrum, namely that of leading a sedentary lifestyle. It is good to get the blood flowing, to engage the brain, and to be involved in social activities. We are after all created by God to live in community and relationships. To avoid such things is quite dangerous not only for our physical health but also for our spiritual health.
With that said, in the midst of all this activity, how often do we ponder the words of Psalm 46:10? Sure we post on Facebook a pretty little picture of some quiet meadow with someone taking a nap or perhaps walking in the woods thinking about the beautiful creation that surrounds them. We may even have this verse posted at home with some decorative flair. But do we really understand what it means to desist and learn that He is God? What does that look like and how do we desist/be still in a world that is constantly on the go?
When examining a passage such as this, it is always helpful to take a look at what the words actually mean as often the English translation loses some of the proverbial “umph”. The first command in this passage is for us to desist or in many translations to be still. The Hebrew verb used is raphah. It speaks of something sinking down, stopping, to drop, or to relax. Charles Spurgeon aptly notes God is telling us to “Sit down and wait in patience, ye believers!” We have here then the command to cease and desist. This means that in order to desist or be still, the activity requires our complete focus. A divided attention is not acceptable.
This, of course, begs the question as to what we are to do when we cease and desist. Are we supposed to sit still and think random thoughts or kick back and take a nap? While tempting, God does provide a specific purpose for the cessation of our actions. We are to learn or know is He is God. This idea of learning or knowing as revealed in the Hebrew verb yada connotes an active and purposeful process of investigation, specifically the pursuit of knowledge. This is far more than obtaining merely a passing bit of information about God such as “Yeah I know He is up there and He is running the universe.” While true, the inherent idea behind this command is one of an intimate knowledge of God, more specifically the reality that He is.
We are to desist and be still in order to know He is God for the purpose of understanding He is sovereign Lord over all the earth. As sovereign Lord, He alone is worthy of all praise and glory. What is most interesting in the context of Psalm 46 is the Psalmist is declaring God’s power, majesty, and glory over and above the enemies of Israel and all the nations of the world. He alone is God. He alone is our strength. He alone is our place of refuge. Furthermore, there is an element of creation theology noted in this Psalm, again depicting God as sovereign over and above the chaos that was associated with creation by many ANE peoples. Peter Craigie rightly notes, “In the psalm, the natural implication of this creation theology is drawn out and expressed in a statement of confidence. Because God controls both history and nature, the chaotic threat which both may offer to human existence may be faced fearlessly. The very worst manifestation of chaos is merely a threat, for the Creator has mastered chaos.”
When we desist and are still before God, it is vital that we focus on the sovereignty of God. We live in a day and age where the world is spinning out of control – or at least it has the appearance of complete chaos. As believers, we know that in the midst of chaos, God is forever in control. As believers, we are commanded by God to desist, to be still, and to know He is God. As noted earlier, this idea of knowing is far more than mere head knowledge. It involves the development of a relationship with our Creator. In order to know God better, we have to desist and be still. What we are to know is that He is our sovereign God.
So the next time everything seems to be spinning out of control or you become frightened by what is happening around the world (i.e. famine, disease, war, financial and political chaos), cease and desist and know that He is God. He will be exalted over all the earth and over all the nations and it is because of that reality we can give Him all the praise, honor, and glory due to His name.
 Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Volume 1 (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 1876), 343.
 Peter Craigie, World Biblical Commentary: Psalms 1-50 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2004), 346.